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Joe Meagher November 2018

Dodge County Emergency Management Deputy Director Joe Meagher reviews documents in his office while working on an update of the county's hazard mitigation plan.

JUNEAU — Preparedness is key in responding to an emergency, according to Dodge County Emergency Management Deputy Director Joe Meagher.

That is why he successfully sought a grant for Hazard Mitigation Planning Update.

The roughly $20,000 award will help keep the county’s planning document up to date, and will identify probable disaster-related damages, including the costs and specifications of each task.

“The idea of the plan is to identify problem areas — areas that have repetitive flooding, areas that are a constant concern,” said Meagher. “The idea is to identify those problem spots and make some potential changes.”

The plan is currently 337 pages long and includes comprehensive information about each problem area.

According to a press release, the plan is designed to look at the risks and vulnerabilities that the county faces from natural disaster and to highlight strategies that might reduce future losses. A 2017 study estimated that mitigation saves society an average of $6 for every $1 spent through federal agency grant programs by breaking the cycle of damage and repair.

The original plan was created in 2006 and 2007. It is updated every four to six years. Grants are awarded routinely to the counties that apply.

Preventative actions can be simple such as elevating a furnace in a basement that sometimes has water on the floor. Mitigation also can have a comprehensive approach such as relocating buildings out of a floodplain or strengthening critical facilities to prevent wind damage and provide stronger shelter.

In the floods of 2008, one such problem was downtown Beaver Dam. Grants and other funding helped demolish 13 buildings in the floodway of the Beaver Dam River, as identified in the Hazard Mitigation Plan. Grants were awarded and funding was arranged based on that plan.

“The plan identifies the problems, has them written down and documented with input from all the cities, villages and townships,” said Meagher. “Surveys are sent out to municipalities helping to identify problem areas. Help may be provided to the areas without the resources to complete that paperwork. Then when the money becomes available and an area is identified as a problem, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) comes in and says yes, you’ve been planning for this. It has been an issue and now we can move forward in getting you some type of funding.”

One of the county’s primary concerns is flooded roadways.

“Around Ashippun, Lebanon and south of Hustisford there are a significant number of roads that are under water almost every year,” said Meagher. “That has only started happening over the last 10 years and seems to be getting worse. It’s definitely a trend related to climate change.”

Meagher added that simply raising the roads is not always an easy task. Although funding is available, the DNR might oppose an action due to an environmental concern or a reason related to the topography of the land.

“Everything has to fall in place to make things happen,” he said.

Meagher is assembling a work group to review and guide the planning activities. The group is reviewing initial background information about Dodge County and has begun identifying strategies that might help.

“I am very excited about this part of the planning process. The input from the work group can have long-lasting impacts, making Dodge County safer and more disaster resistant,” he said.

Meagher would like to ensure that all interested members of the community have an opportunity to provide input into the plan. Anyone interested in more information about the plan or who would like to provide input into the plan is urged to contact Meagher at 920-386-3993.

Beaver Dam Daily Citizen Senior Reporter